With its incredible wildlife – some of which is found nowhere else on Earth – and pristine islands of rocky headlands, volcanoes, lava fields and sweeping beaches, not to mention accommodation options from boutique seafront lodges and luxury camps to seriously stylish cruises, the Galapagos ticks all the boxes, and more. Our South America expert Millie is fresh back from a cruise around these irresistible islands, and gives us her top tips.
Choose the right cruise boat
I travelled on the MV Origin, one of the best of the small boats cruising in the Galapagos, and as well as unforgettable wildlife experiences, I basked in the exceptional service and incredible food – you certainly won’t go hungry, and you might find a bird or two flying to the chair next to you to accompany you as you eat your breakfast on deck in the sunshine.
There is a range of boat options, with different sizes and a variety of cruise lengths and adventures on offer. There are some that cater for divers, if that’s your thing, but they don’t tend to be as luxurious – and you can see the marine life just as well by swimming and snorkelling.
From the boat, I visited the beautiful beaches of Espanola and Floreana (to name just a few), saw blue-footed boobies performing their distinctive mating dance, met giant tortoises and went snorkelling with penguins, turtles and sea lions, with baby whales jumping around in the distance.
Consider a land-based Galapagos holiday
While cruises are a justifiably popular option in the Galapagos, many people don’t realise that you don’t have to explore the islands by boat. If you’re prone to seasickness or have children in tow, then a land-based Galapagos holiday is a fabulous option, and is fast becoming an attractive alternative. Stay in a luxury hotel (many of which are on the main island, Santa Cruz), and enjoy day cruises to see the surrounding islands and their wildlife, without missing out on the big hitters, while returning to a comfortable (and static!) bed at the end of the day.
I especially recommend the Galapagos Safari Camp for an epic family adventure. This luxury camp has an infinity pool and panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean, and the tents come with ensuite bathrooms and balconies with hammocks to relax in. You may find a giant tortoise or two meandering past and Galapagos doves flying overhead. From here, you can go hiking, biking, horse riding and kayaking.
Take a look at our land-based adventure holiday, which packs in some of the top attractions of both Ecuador and the Galapagos. Stay in the Andean city of Quito in Ecuador before heading to the Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz, from where you can visit lava fields and dense forests, snorkel with sea turtles and reef sharks and experience the sight of hundreds of flamingos in the lagoons of El Garrapatero Beach. You’ll also get to stay on the islands of Isabela, where you can hike up the Sierra Negra volcano, and San Cristobal, from where you can take a boat trip to the volcanic cone of Kicker Rock and to the islands of Espanola and Lobos, where you’ll see vast numbers of sea lions and marine iguanas sunning themselves on the headlands and coastlines.
Exploring by land and sea
On land, make the most of these beautiful landscapes on expert guided treks, learning about the wildlife along the way. Expect to witness sea lions snoozing on benches and congregating on the beach, penguins gathering by the shore and marine iguanas standing sentinel on the rocks. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to find out more about the legendary naturalist and his research on the islands – and it's also a breeding and conservation centre, so if you're lucky you might see baby tortoises hatching.
Out at sea, you can take out a kayak to explore hidden inlets and coves and other areas that the big boats can’t reach.
Due to its unique and fragile ecosystem, visitors to the Galapagos are strictly regulated, so you’ll never feel overcrowded during your visit. Only a certain number of boats are cruising the islands at any one time, with no more than two allowed in each main location. This ensures that your experience of the Galapagos remains a unique and personal adventure.
Feeling inspired? We can tailor-make your perfect holiday or honeymoon to the Galapagos Islands and beyond. Contact Millie on 0207 337 9010, click on Make an Enquiry or find out more about our range of holidays in the Galapagos here.